Last updated: 17 April, 2012

Yemen militants killed in suspected US drone raid

A suicide bomber killed three Yemeni soldiers in southern Yemen on Tuesday, a military official said, a day after a suspected US drone strike killed five Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants.

The official said the bomber drove a car packed with explosives into a military checkpoint on a hill between the southern provinces of Bayda and Abyan, mostly lawless regions where Al-Qaeda militants have strengthened their presence.

At least five other soldiers were wounded in the attack, which the official said was likely carried out by Al-Qaeda or its local affiliates.

In a separate incident late Monday, a suspected US drone strike in Shabwa province killed five Al-Qaeda militants, a local government official said.

The strike was in the Kharama area between the towns of Azzan and Huta.

The deadly raid comes just days after three local Al-Qaeda leaders were killed in an air strike on their car in Bayda, about 210 kilometres (130 miles) southeast of Sanaa.

The defence ministry said Saturday’s raid was conducted by Yemeni warplanes, but a security official told AFP a US drone was responsible.

The United States has never formally acknowledged the use of drones against Al-Qaeda in Yemen, considered by Washington to be the most active and deadly branch of the global terror network and a major focus of its “war on terror.”

In other violence on Tuesday, 10 soldiers were wounded in repeated mortar attacks by Al-Qaeda militants on a military base south of Loder, in Abyan, where fierce clashes last week left more than 200 people dead.

Al-Qaeda has exploited a decline in central government control that accompanied Arab Spring-inspired protests that eventually forced president Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign.

Since last May, the extremist group’s Yemeni branch, known as the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), has seized several towns in the lawless south and east, including Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province.